(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

Pace Laps: Roush Fenway’s Struggles, Truck Championship Contenders and Racing vs. Rain

Sprint Cup Series: Slow Start for Roush Fenway Racing – There has been a gap between Penske Racing and Roush Fenway Racing all season.  Though both teams use Ford engines, Penske has been gapping their counterpart, and never was it more evident than at Chicagoland on Sunday. While Brad Keselowski earned the win and Joey Logano fought to a fourth-place finish, the RFR drivers languished on the track, never coming close to contention, and really, not ever being much of a factor in making the top 15.

It’s difficult when the organization’s top driver in the race, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., could muster only 17th, and he’s not even in the Chase.  Carl Edwards, whose big highlight was having a left-rear tire go down, took 20th, and Greg Biffle, who was nary to be found during the telecast, silently finished in 23rd.

2014 Chicago CUP Greg Biffle CIA
Not a great day for Roush at Chicagoland (Credit: CIA)

Those types of finishes are what will kill any hope of moving on to the second round – and really should have the team questioning just where they’re headed in the future.  It’s amazing to see a team that was once a stalwart on the 1.5 mile tracks flounder so much.  Huston Ladner

Camping World Truck Series: Championship Contenders Separating Themselves – With just seven races remaining on the 2014 schedule, the championship contenders are quickly separating themselves from the rest of the field. Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter have been swapping the top spot with Ryan Blaney for much of the season. Today, the trio are separated by just 16 markers, a gap that could change dramatically with just a single bad race. Darrell Wallace, Jr. is the next closest competitor at 35 points back as the most realistic driver that could join the championship battle as the weeks wind down. German Quiroga finds himself fifth, though he lost ground after bad luck struck at Chicagoland Speedway. It’s not that he can’t make up the 59-point deficit he currently has, but given the single point given for each position on the track, that’s a rather large number to overcome in such a short amount of time. It’s more than likely down to just a four-truck battle for the championship at this point, but the question remains as to which driver will come out on top. Beth Lunkenheimer

NHRA: Rain Cuts Shout the Pep Boys Carolina Nationals – Mother Nature and poor track conditions conspired to bring an early end to the action at the Pep Boys Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, NC, on Sunday. Because of travel needs for the series to get to the next event in Dallas next weekend, the event will not be completed on Monday. Remaining rounds, including all four for Pro Stock Motorcycle, will be contested during qualifications in Dallas, similar to the way things were done with the rained out rounds at Brainerd earlier this season.
Consideration was given to returning to Charlotte to run the rest of the rounds on the next off-weekend in October, but it was the same weekend as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Charlotte oval.
Action came to a halt to re-evaluate the racing surface and the suitability of continuing after four Pro Stock passes when V Gaines lost traction and rolled four times before coming to a rest on his wheels. Gaines emerged from his Doge Dart unharmed, and was the round winner after Allen Johnson crossed the center line, an instant disqualification, but the car was destroyed.
“It happened so fast, I was unable to catch it,” Gaines said. “I’m just sick that we ruined a very good race car. We’ll come back and rebound.”
Pieces of the concrete racing surface were coming off and the remaining Pro Stock cars and Pro Stock Motorcycles were sent back to the pits while officials met to consider a course of action to continue racing, including opening the other two lanes on the four wide dragstrip, but then rain arrived, at which point NHRA officials announced the postponement of racing for the day.
First rounds of Top Fuel and Funny Car were completed. In Top Fuel, J.R. Todd, Spencer Massey, Billy Torrence, Tony Schumacher, Steve Torrence, Leah Pritchett, Morgan Lucas, and Khalid alBalooshi continue on to round two.
Funny Car drivers going on to round two are Dave Rivers, who upset fast qualifier Alexis DeJoria in a pedal fest, John Force, Bob Tasca III, Ron Capps, Robert Hight, Jeff Arend, Matt Hagan, and Tim Wilkerson.  Toni Montgomery

Formula E: And So It Begins – The inaugural race of the Formula E series took place on the streets of Beijing this past weekend.  The series is an attempt to bring together racing and battery-power cars.  Whether or not you’re a fan of the idea, it is still an intriguing project and seems to be something straight out of a film that is set in the future.

Rather than the usual roar/purr/growl of the usual combustion engine, the cars emit a whirr, which makes it difficult to match the sound to the speeds on the track.  The in-car telemetry purported that the drivers were hitting over 160 KPH (over 100 MPH), but it was hard to get that sense.  The fact that the track was so narrow and didn’t have a long straight also hampered the product.

Overall, the racing was typical of street/road course racing, with passing at a minimum, yet it was still interesting.  Nico Prost held the lead for what seemed to be the entirety of the event.  On the last laps, however, Nick Heidfeld made an inside move prior to the final corner and the two tangled, sending Heidfeld into the fence in what looked like a gnarly wreck.  He was able to walk away, and the incident allowed Lucas di Grassi to shoot from third into the win.  Franck Montagny took second followed by Sam Bird rounding out the podium.

The crowd for the event was estimated at 75,000, which is not a bad way to begin.  The question is whether or not the series will be able to maintain that kind of fan interest as the season progresses.  The next race is November 22 in Malayasia.   Huston Ladner

Sports Cars: OAK Racing to Debut Ligier JS P2 at COTA – On Saturday, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (TUSC) will share a unique twin bill at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) near Austin, Texas with the World Endurance Championship (WEC).  There will be a couple of changes as compared to a normal weekend.  For one, Extreme Speed Motorsports is entering both races.  The No. 2 HPD ARX-03b driven by Ed Brown and Johannes van Overbeek will race as normal.  However, the No. 1, normally driven by Ryan Dalziel and Scott Sharp, will contest Sunday’s six hour WEC race instead (the team will run No. 30).  Brown will join in as the squad’s third driver.
Both races will be held back-to-back on Saturday with the TUSC race at 12:30 p.m. and the WEC race at 6 p.m.  Both races will be aired live on FOX Sports 2.  Also of note, FOX Sports will be airing a two-hour condensed telecast of the TUSC Lonestar Le Mans on Sunday afternoon on FOX.  Check your local listings for times, as it will be dependent on the NFL schedule.
Finally, the Circuit of the Americas will see the U.S. debut of the new Ligier JS P2 chassis.  OAK Racing, which has raced a Nissan-powered Morgan chassis (of their own construction) this season in TUSC, debuted the Ligier at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.  There were three of the new closed-top Ligiers in the field.  One was the primary entry from OAK Racing, the No. 35 shared by Alex Brundle and GT Academy graduates Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shulzhitskiy.  This entry dominated the P2 class for much of the race before dropping to a fifth-place finish.  Another was the No. 46, an independent entry from Thiriet by TDS Racing, a team that normally races in the European Le Mans Series.  That team, with the trio of Tristan Gommendy, Ludovic Badey and team owner Pierre Thiriet finished second in class.
Finally, we have the third Ligier (No. 33), from OAK Racing’s Asian division, driven by Ho-Pin Tung, David Cheng and Adderley Fong that finished seventh in class.  The main difference between No. 33 and the other two Ligiers is the fact that the No. 33 had a Honda engine while the other two had Nissan powerplants.
Despite running the Nissan engine in their Morgan for the entire season, OAK Racing will race the Honda-powered Ligier on Saturday at COTA with Brundle and Gustavo Yacaman.  Yacaman has actually never driven the Ligier JS P2, but is anxious to show what the car can do on track.
“After this long summer break, I am ready to get back in the car in COTA, especially to show what the new Ligier JS P2 can do,” Yacaman told IMSA.com.  “I want to thank Zytek and Nissan Motorsports for a flawless season until now, but at the same time, I am very excited to work with the guys from HPD.  It will be fun to have a double OnRoak Automotive program at COTA with the WEC and TUDOR Championship teams present.  I believe we can score a double win for OnRoak Automotive in both championships.”
Currently, OAK Racing plans to race the Ligier JS P2 in the team’s black and pink paint scheme both at COTA and in the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on October 4.  Olivier Pla, who normally co-drives the No. 42, will be back in the car as the third driver on the squad.  In Austin, Pla will be driving the No. 26 OAK Racing-operated G-Drive Racing entry in the WEC six hour race.  Beyond that, the team’s participation in TUSC is a question mark.  Phil Allaway
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As an editor, Ava works through some of the site’s biggest columns while writing one of her own on F1 each week. “Stranded” on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, the aspiring college professor also helps anchor other coverage while coordinating Pace Laps, our multi-series news update.

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2 comments

  1. Avatar

    Pretty obvious that the season long battle between the engineers at Penske and HMS has swung in Penskes favor. Whether the hendrick guys can catch up in the next few races will determine which team wins the championship.

  2. Avatar

    A little honestly please. The truck series has lost all sense of identiy. There are no real contenders let alone championship contenders. It is just something for insecure Cuppers to fool around with. Find your shoes, tuck in your shirt and go home. The party is OVER.